'The Voice of Ireland' Vs 'The Voice UK'
The BBC’s The Voice UK is the glossy, big-budget (a reported £22m) Goliath to RTE’s The Voice of Ireland’s rather less affluent underdog, David.
To pit them against each other is not comparing like with like. But when two shows follow the same format and broadcast within a day of each other in peak weekend primetime telly slots on TV channels common to almost every household in Ireland, comparisons are inevitable.
So, here’s the lowdown on how we view both shows – and it’s not all bad news for The Voice of Ireland...
Kathryn Thomas and Eoghan McDermott have been presenting The Voice of Ireland main show and backstage since the very first show was birthed all shiny and new in an RTE studio.
Both seasoned pros they have a relaxed, easy, warm approach that makes the quivering contestants comfortable and the edgy viewers relaxed.
As a viewer you just know you’re in safe hands, even when a particularly pitchy battle threatens to tear your eardrums apart - they do the presenting equivalent of smoothing your hair and stroking your cheek and making you feel like everything’s going to be okay.
That’s not to say Emma Willis and Marvin Humes aren’t lovely on The Voice UK. But they’re new and a bit rabbit-in-headlights stiff. Of course, they’re still settling in, but they’ll never achieve the easy flow of the Kathryn and Eoghan show.
Our own Una Foden and British star Rachel Stevens have both whipped up their fair share of album sales and number ones as members of pop groups The Saturdays and S Club 7 respectively.
As for the boys, nobody can argue with Kian Egan’s success with Westlife. And Bressie certainly knows what he’s talking about – he seems to be the coach who most frequently addresses issues with contestants' actual singing technique.
The UK show, meanwhile, boasts the legend that is Tom Jones. It doesn’t really matter who the other coaches are...
Although they happen to be Will.i.am who has sold somewhere in the region of 33m albums with The Black Eyed Peas, Rita Ora (fresh from a Grammys performance and at the top of her game), and Ricky Wilson of Kaiser Chiefs fame.
Not one of the eight could be criticised for their experience and coaching credentials, although Tom Jones just wins everything.
Contestant quality quotient
Our paltry population of 4.58m is almost half the population of the city London alone. We undoubtedly have as much talent per capita as they UK but they have an expanse of ocean from which to choose their crooning carp.
It’s a numbers game which, unfortunately, Ireland is destined to lose. And what compounds the problem is the fact that the cream of our potential contestants opt to traverse the Irish sea and compete on the UK show.
You can’t blame the likes of the phenomenally talented Sharon Murphy, or 17-year-old Claudia Rose Long or Lucy Byrne for trying their luck on a show with mentors including Tom Jones and Will.i.am.
The fact is, if you’re really serious about a career in the music business, the UK is where it’s at, at least in terms of The Voice.
They may not have produced a superstar artist any more than the Irish version has, but the exposure they get in the UK is invaluable. The Voice UK pulls a whopping 7m average eyeballs every Saturday night. That’s 6.4m more than the best achieved by The Voice of Ireland.
The Voice UK has the one-man entertainment spectacle that is Will.i.am, who arguably accounts for at least 50% of the entire entertainment value of the show. His quips, his facial expressions, his energy, even his sartorial choices make for compulsive viewing.
Kian and Bressie's banter, whether contrived or the result of a genuine friendly rivalry, is often hilarious and you'd wonder how the panel would hold up without their endearing, yet occasionally awkward, double-act.
Performance-wise, both shows offer contestants who are so off-key and toe-curlingly cringeworthy that you want to tear your watering eyes away but can’t stop staring Clockwork Orange style at the same time.
The UK Voice has the usual array of bog standard pub singers and tribute acts, especially in the early days, but when the contestants are good, they're brilliant.
When you have an artist like Esmee Denters who recorded with Justin Timberlake trying her luck at a comeback on The Voice UK it tells you something about the collective kudos of the coaches and the profile boosting power of the show.
And then you have spine-tingling performances like this (from the aforementioned Sharon Murphy):
The Voice of Ireland, on the other hand, gave us this classic battle last week:
Yes, there have been better battles and much, much better performances on The Voice of Ireland. But can you remember one the way you'll remember Sharon Murphy's blind audition on the Voice UK?
Outside of the contestants and their families, much of the Sunday night Twitter and Monday morning water-cooler conversation about The Voice of Ireland is generated by its occasional car crash qualities. But therein lies its appeal. Would the show get such fantastic ratings without these occasional musical motorway pile-ups? Possibly not. Top marks for entertainment value.
What about the music?
Neither show can claim to have moulded a music superstar.
The UK show has had thirteen singles and four albums chart in the top 75 - hardly ground-breaking for a show with its profile. It has only had one number one single, from series 1 semi-finalist Becky Hill. Can anyone name a Voice UK winner?
By virtue of them being Irish, however, most people can probably remember one or two Irish series’ winners.
Pat Byrne won the first series in 2011 and released three singles, one of which made number 3 in the Irish charts. Ryan O’Shaughnessy, who made the final 24, had two singles reach number 3 whilst his album peaked at number 1.
However, even coach Bressie has said the artists need support following their win if they’re going to forge a career. He mentored last year’s winner Brendan McCahey, but said Brendan should have worked with writers on his album, which hit its charts ceiling number 20.
It’s obvious that the longevity of the winners’ music careers is not the aim of the show, in either case. Their performances – good and bad - make for perfect primetime telly. The best they can offer is a platform for singers to boost their profile.
And there’s nothing wrong with that.
They're ostensibly the same show but we love them for different reasons. Despite a budget that likely counts as small change compared to that of the UK show, the Voice of Ireland looks just as glossy, boasts presenters and coaches who make it look easy, and has us all tweeting our thumbs off of a Sunday night.
When it comes to real talent, however, the UK Voice, spoilt for choice, offers the better bet. For have-a-go heroes The Voice of Ireland wins hands down. They're equally enjoyable, equally endearing, and equally entertaining - there's room enough in Tellytown for two of them.